Biography

Sakutarō Hagiwara (1 November 1886 - 11 May 1942) was a writer of free-style verse, active in Taishō and early Showa period Japan. He liberated Japanese free verse from the grip of traditional rules, and he is considered the “father of modern colloquial poetry in Japan”. He published many volumes of essays, literary and cultural criticism, and aphorisms over his long career.

In 1913, he published five of his verses in Zamboa ("Shaddock"), a magazine edited by Kitahara Hakushu, who became his mentor and friend. He also contributed verse to Maeda Yugure's Shiika ("Poetry") and Chijō Junrei ("Earth Pilgrimage"), another journal created by Hakushū. The following year, he joined Muro Saisei and the Christian minister Yamamura Bochō in creating the Ningyo Shisha ("Merman Poetry Group"), dedicated to the study of music, poetry, and religion. The three writers called their literary magazine, Takujō Funsui ("Tabletop Fountain"), and published the first edition in 1915.

In 1916, Hagiwara co-founded with Murō Saisei the literary magazine Kanjō ("Sentiment"), and in the following year he brought out his first free-verse collection, Tsuki ni Hoeru ("Howling at the Moon"), which had an introduction by Kitahara Hakushū. The work created a sensation in literary circles. Hagiwara rejected the symbolism and use of unusual words, with consequent vagueness of Hakushū and other contemporary poets in favor of precise wording which appealed rhythmically or musically to the ears.

He later wrote additional anthologies, including Aoneko ("Blue Cat") in 1923 and Hyōtō ("Icy Island") in 1924, as well other volumes of cultural and literary criticism. He was also a scholar of classical verse and published Shi no Genri ("Principles of Poetry",1928).

His critical study Ren’ai meika shu ("A Collection of Best-Loved Love Poems", 1931), shows that he had a deep appreciation for classical Japanese poetry, and Kyōshu no shijin Yosa Buson ("Yosa Buson—Poet of Nostalgia", 1936) reveals his respect for the haiku poet Buson, who advocated a return to the 17th century rules of Bashō.

His unique style of verse expressed his doubts about existence, and his fears, ennui, and anger through the use of dark images and unambiguous wording.
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